Bruno in the middle as Newcastle fans bask in football sunshine

Special Bruno in the middle as Newcastle fans bask in football sunshine
Bruno Guimaraes scores Newcastle United’s fourth goal at St. Mary’s Stadium, Southampton, Britain, Nov. 6, 2022. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 09 November 2022

Bruno in the middle as Newcastle fans bask in football sunshine

Bruno in the middle as Newcastle fans bask in football sunshine
  • Magpies’ 4-1 win against Southampton at St Mary’s showed a team and supporters in sync and having the time of their lives
  • A day after his stroll at St Mary’s, Bruno Guimaraes was selected in Brazil’s 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar

All morning the rain had been lashing down in Southampton.

For those making the long trip from Newcastle for the Premier League clash at St Mary’s, perhaps the overcast conditions could have hinted at a grim day on the south coast.

After all, this is what they have been used to for years, literally and figuratively.

But then, just before kickoff, the rain stopped, the clouds scattered, the sun found a way through. And, quite poignantly, it seemed to be shining only on those standing in the away end.

In truth, the Newcastle fans have been basking in footballing sunshine all season.

The club, the team and the supporters are these days emerging from what seemed like a 15-year storm, and it all came together gloriously for them on Sunday.

Eddie Howe’s team had carried the improvement, and great escape, from last season, into this one, and week by week, match by match, they have exceeded expectations.

Going into their match against Southampton, Newcastle had won five out of six matches and were sitting fourth in the table. In hindsight, six out of seven — and the lofty heights of third place — now seems inevitable.

But never mind hindsight, the travelling support had started the party some time before the kickoff. And throughout the afternoon, one that at points delivered prosaic football punctuated by moments of inspiration on the pitch, in the stands the noise and spectacle of sheer bravado never relented.

Several journalists witnessing a Premier League match for the first time were genuinely taken aback by what they were seeing.

The first half hour saw plenty of effort — and one clear chance — from a desperately out of form Southampton, with Newcastle seemingly not hitting the heights of recent performances.

But, as Arab News correspondent Liam Kennedy put it, “this version (of Newcastle) is clinical and incisive, even when they are not at their best, which they were not on the south coast.”

Conducting operations for Howe’s men was the wonderful Brazilian playmaker Bruno Guimaraes.

The chant for the new hero on Tyneside was the soundtrack of the afternoon.

“We’ve got Bruno in the middle,

He knows exactly what we need,

Botman at the back,

Isak in attack,

Newcastle gonna win the Premier League.”

And when the breakthrough finally came in the 35th minute, there was only going to be one outcome.

“Miguel Almiron, Almiron … Miguel Almiron,” the supporters’ singing rang out.

The Paraguayan goalscorer, in the form of his life, was serenaded to the tune of “Give It Up” by KC & The Sunshine Band, quite appropriately.

Halftime brought only a brief respite for the home team.

As the rain came down again, Chris Wood, on for Callum Wilson at the break, made it 2-0 on 58 minutes, and two became three after Kieran Trippier put Joe Willock on just after the hour.

“This is a team that looks like scoring in every attack now,” Peter Redding, lifelong Newcastle fan and host of Black & White podcast with Arab News, had said last week.

It has been some transformation from even earlier this season, when the absence of Wilson left fans wondering where the goals would come from.

The writing was on the wall for Southampton and their Austrian manager Ralph Hasenhuttl, whose worst fears would be realized by the end of the afternoon.

Even a late consolation on a miserable day for the Saints barely registered as Newcastle wrapped up a perfect afternoon with a fourth goal in stoppage time.

That it came from the man of the moment Guimaraes delighted more than just the delirious away supporters.

“In Brazil, we first noticed his progress when he appeared in the Brazilian Championship at Athletico Paranaense,” said Osmar Portilho, editor at UOL in Sao Paulo, and experiencing a first-ever Premier League match.

“But to be honest, he wasn’t the guy who stood out to fans from other states, like Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.”

“The 2020 Olympics was vital for fans to start getting familiar with his game.

“With his transfer to Newcastle, the buzz grew and the repercussion of the English media praising his performances made him even more famous in Brazil, mainly for being such a classic midfielder in a club on the rise,” he added.

A day after his stroll at St Mary’s, Guimaraes was selected in Brazil’s 26-man squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Selecao coach Tite might have had a preference for the Manchester United duo of Fred and Casemiro at the heart of his midfield, but the calls for Guimaraes to start are getting hard to ignore.

For Newcastle fans, it is a no-brainer.

“He is the best midfield player I’ve seen play for the club since (I) started watching the team in 1984,” Redding said.

The real stars on Sunday, however, were those who sang his name throughout the afternoon.

“It was a surprise to see how loud the Newcastle crowd was in an away game. And it was also impressive to see the affection they had for Bruno, singing his song and reacting every time he touched the ball,” Portilho added.

“Seeing him play live for Newcastle was important to understand how well he fits into this team, acting as a classic midfielder, playing box to box,” the Brazilian journalist added. “He’s a player who helps his defense with interceptions and also carries the ball in attack with high efficiency even when under pressure. A couple of years ago we didn’t know him very well, but now plenty of supporters say he should be starting for Brazil.”

Whether in the black and white stripes of Newcastle, or the gold and blue of Brazil, fans just want Bruno in the middle.

  • Ali Khaled was at St Mary’s in Southampton as a guest of Visit Britain.